It took one year for head coach John Wagner to make something out of Point Beach football.
In that short year, Wagner has turned the Garnet Gulls from can't-dos to have-dones.
Wagner and Point Beach looked to continue their improbable run Saturday afternoon, but fell to top-seeded Asbury Park (9-1), 54-6, at Asbury Park Stadium in a Central Jersey Group I semifinal.
The loss throws the Gulls out of the playoffs, but can't take away from their stunning season, in which they reached the playoffs for the first time since 2001 and the sectional semifinals for the first time in school history.
The fifth-seeded Garnet Gulls (7-3) scored their lone touchdown late in the second quarter, when Jake Fioretti took a handoff and tossed the pass to Mark Jurkowski for a 9-yard score, cutting into the Bishops' lead at 26-6. Asbury Park answered back on one play: a 54-yard pass to Armond Conover, extending their already impressive lead.
The Blue Bishops continued their offense in the second half, adding 20 points to finalize their 54-6 final -- the most points they have put up since they beat Mater Dei, 60-0 on Oct. 8. The 54 points is the most Point Beach has allowed since their 54-27 loss to Dunellen on Oct. 29, 2010.
"Asbury brought their A-game today. They brought a very high tempo and I'm not going to take anything away from them," Wagner said, "We helped set up some of those things for them. It is what it is."
The Bishops took it to Point Beach early and often, forcing four first-half turnovers and putting up 26 of their 34 first-half points in the second quarter.
After recovering a fumble on the opening kickoff, Asbury Park went 33 yards on four plays, capping it off with a 23-yard pass to Armond Conover to get the early advantage.
Later, the Bishops added scoring plays of 53, 45, 91 and 54 yards to expose a Garnet Gulls defense that had done well throughout the season.
"We did not tackle well today. Tackling against that kind of talent is a difficult thing, and we wanted to stop it before it got started, but they got it started a couple of times today," Wagner said.
"They made plays," he said. "They had a couple of fourth-down plays where we thought we stopped them and just didn't finish the job. Disappointed, obviously."
Bishops' quarterback Robert Barksdale hit Amir Conover for a 53-yard touchdown connection, a 45-yard pass to Islam Joshua, a 54-yard pass to Armond Conover, and Armond Conover also ran for a 91-yard score to distance the Bishops from Point Beach in the second quarter.
Garnet Gulls quarterback Christian Martino was 2 of 16 passing for 24 yards and threw three interceptions. Point Beach rushed for 84 yards, using a multitude of players.
"I thought we moved the ball fairly effectively," Wagner said, "But defensively, they got our into space, and when they get out into space, you're in trouble."
Joshua added a 40-yard score in the second half for Asbury Park. Armond Conover returned an interception 42 yards for another touchdown, along with a 5-yard touchdown run to finalize the scoring midway through the fourth quarter.
Point Beach's defense allowed 432 yards of offense.
"They're great athletes. They did what they were supposed to do when they get into space and that's score touchdowns," Wagner said.
The Bishops beat Point Beach at home earlier in the season as well, 24-8, although Saturday's loss held much more meaning.
"I'm not going to take anything away from [a great season]. We're going to meet tomorrow at 9:30, work on some tape, and get ready for Shore," Wagner said.
The Garnet Gulls will look to finish their season on a high note, when they take on Shore Regional in West Long Branch on Wednesday.